Trauma And Its Impact on Leadership

One does not have to be a military veteran or live in a war zone to encounter trauma. Trauma happens to us, our friends, colleagues, families, and neighbours. Research suggests that up to thirty percent of women (and twenty percent of men) in this country have been sexually abused. Twenty-five percent have been beaten by a parent severe enough to leave a mark. Thirty percent of couples engage in physical violence. A quarter of us grew up with alcoholic relatives, and ten percent have witnessed their mother being beaten or hit. Many researchers feel these statistics are conservative, and they don’t even account for the unmeasured and unpredictable rage and verbal abuse many grew up with.

Human beings are a resilient species, but it’s naïve to think that such events in our upbringing don’t impact the way we relate to people in our homes, communities, and workplaces. Trauma leaves traces on our minds and bodies. It impacts the way we think, the way we feel, the way we interact with those around us, and the way we live.

When you move into a position of leadership, you don’t acquire more power. What you get is more accountability. Considering the trauma that many have experienced, here are five accountabilities of a positional leader in relation to trauma, stress, and psychological safety in the workplace:

  1. Learn why creating a psychologically safe work environment is critical to a successful work environment and why being at peace with yourself is the foundation of all good leadership.
  2. Become familiar with your own inner state and aware of how your moods impact others. Learn to know the difference between when you’re stressed and when you are relaxed.
  3. Recognize how any trauma in your life may have impacted your past or current actions and identify a plan for healing and working with this trauma.
  4. Get regular feedback from trusted colleagues and friends on how your actions may be inadvertently creating unnecessary tension in your leadership. We all have blind spots and need to take an inventory of these on a continual basis.
  5. Be open to keep learning about psychological safety and ways to ensure a safe, caring, and accountable workplace under your leadership.